Fund-raising sites offer new options to musicians

Fri May 14, 2010 11:26pm EDT
 
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By Glenn Peoples

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - As record labels embrace new platforms to create direct-to-fan releases, they're changing how the industry thinks of websites usually associated with unsigned or emerging artists.

Two recent examples stand out. U.K.-based Atlantic Records artist Natty is using Pledge Music to finance the release of an EP, while indie Kill Rock Stars is using Kickstarter.com to raise funds for the release of a vinyl boxed set featuring the collected works of Swiss female post-punk group Kleenex.

The fan-funded release of albums is hardly a new idea. Marillion backed the creation of its 2001 album "Anoraknophobia" by amassing 12,674 preorders. In 2008, singer-songwriter Jill Sobule raised $75,000 in just six weeks by offering "gifts" for contributions ranging from $10 to $10,000. ArtistShare has hosted fan-funded projects since its launch in 2003. And startups Sellaband and Slicethepie have given the unknown and unsigned a way to raise money to record and market albums.

But new platforms like Kickstarter and Pledge, which both launched last year, are helping expand the fan-funded model beyond the early adopters and do-it-yourself crowd.

SETTING GOALS

Kickstarter offers artists and fans a conditional purchasing system under which an artist establishes a fund-raising goal for a project and then solicits contribution pledges from fans. The artist collects the funds and manufactures a product only if the goal is reached. Although similar sites exist, Kickstarter has become a favored resource of authors, filmmakers and designers.

A month after launching in April 2009, Kickstarter campaigns had raised $60,000, according to co-founder Yancey Strickler, formerly editor-in-chief of eMusic. By the end of its first year, the site had raised $1.5 million and logged its 1,000th successfully funded project. It acts only as a fund-raising platform and leaves the marketing of projects to artists.

That fit the bill for Kill Rock Stars and its four-LP Kleenex boxed set. The label released the band's collected works on CD in 2001, but fans have been asking for a vinyl version of the set, according to label head Portia Sabin.   Continued...